(Mis)Adventures in DIY'ing: Whole House Humidifier. Part Three.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Last part.

Or so we'll see.  Hm.

In case you missed part one, you can start here.  If you missed part two, that can be found here.

Ok, so part three.  Wow, my first three-parter story.  Huh.  Ooopfff.  Man.

Last we left off, the humidifier* that I had spent four hours installing decided it did not want to work; rather, the solenoid was poop.  I was moping and stomping feet.  The online chat person told me to exchange it, all of it, remove all the parts and exchange the whole dumb thing and install another one.

By the way, I inquired multiple times (to no avail), is it possible to check the solenoid in the store so I do not have to waste time running back and forth, installing the whole thing in its entirety and then check it, only to uninstall and run all over town again?

Nope.  They eventually said nope, there is not.  No way to check it before buying.  Granted of course it should just work the very first time.  Shrug, Iiiiiii dunno, right?

Anywhoooooo..............

Next morning, I yank the whole entire thing off (nearly -- hey, I'm not taking the water thing off, mmk?), toss it in the box, trundle to a different Menards in a further part of town.

Luckily I clear a vast majority of traffic lights on the way, dodge a few speed cameras, then end up with the very first parking space closest to the door.

Maybe the stars are aligning?, I ponder.

Exchange the unit easily, make most of the lights home, duck the speed cameras, and in relatively shortish order, if two point five hours is shortish, the new one is installed, this alien form sucking at our furnace.

Hey look.  A humidifier.  Humidifier number two.  Vaguely similar to the other one that was here.
Not before I have to struggle again, mind you, of course.  It wouldn't be me or me trying to DIY otherwise:  couldn't get all four screws into the back panel, only three (no biggie); I accidentally rip the this-time-too-short flexible duct right off the collar starter; wires refuse to stay in the humidifier; cut my finger; what else...surely there was more.

But whatever, it's done.  New one is done and on.  And I have hopes.  Many hopes.  Many many hopes.

Ok.

Cross my fingers.

Turn it on, power up furnace.  No water.  Perturbed-ness ramping up, I yank out the pressure switch, blow into it, hear the solenoid click, water starts running.  Ok!  Hallelujah, water is running!  Hey!  Wow!  Ok!

Hey look, water in the drain tube!  Whoa!
Stop blowing into the tube, water stops.  Stuff tube back into original duct, no click, no water.  Stuff tube into humidistat opening where more air is moving, no click, no water.

Well sh*tballs.  Somehow I knew this would happen.  At least the solenoid actually opens on this one.  Eyeroll.  But seriously, for f's sake dude.

I direct message again over there on the Twitters, try to get back on online chat.

After quite literally two hours of waiting for a chat, I give up.  The Honeywell tweet people say hey (after waiting two hours for a response there as well), have a HVAC technician come assist.

?!

Oh!  Right!  Because if I had had the good fortune to do that, why would I buy your system and do it myself?  Isn't your system meant for the DIY'er?  I would have hired someone to do this whole thing for me otherwise.  Pull. head. out. of. butt, people.

Sorry, ahem.  As you can surmise, my patience was treading thin ice.

I tell the Honeywell tweet people no, you will be paying for someone to come out.  Smartly, they agreed.

Because after I outlined to them that I've been to four different Menards stores, on my third humidifier now, installed two which took over six hours of my time alone, removed one taking over an hour, spent several hours purchasing and returning "missing" parts, travelled back and forth to stores all over God's green Chicago exchanging the units, countless hours tweet whatever-ing with them, an hour plus on inept online chat, two hours queued waiting for another chat, I believe I have done everything in my power to make their product work.  Short of kicking it.  I didn't say that last part.

I have holes in my ductwork now specially made trying to get their product to work.  I destroyed my ducts for you, Honeywell.  Grasp that, tweet support people.

I know, in the grand scheme of things, they don't care. "We apologize for the inconvenience," is their pre-typed blah blah blah constant refrain.  Right.  Sure ya do.

Anyway, so, sigh....Ok.  Deep breath, Becky.

I set the appointment with the sole heating/cooling people they allow, Heatmasters.  Honeywell follow-up calls them and tells them they're paying....for anything having to do with getting the humidifier to work, mind you gosh of course no surprise, not if there's something wrong with my system.  That's fair, despite my implied or overt snark.

I snip because if they intend these units to work with any HVAC system, they should work with any HVAC system.  Our system is a typical average system.  Well, the ductwork leaves a lot to be desired but still.  Typical average system you'd likely find in any home that it's promoted to work with.

Besides, it's not our system's deficiencies at issue.

Next day (amazingly enough!), the heating/cooling guy comes out.  Super nice guy, Ivan.  Ivan clearly knows his stuff.  Nice, I like this.  The storm clouds are parting.

Right off he's shaking his head.  Mmmph, neat.  Never mind about the storm cloud thing.

He tells me I should have installed the thing on the return side, unlike what Honeywell's directions say.  Performance would have been better, he says.  I'm crushed.  Why does Honeywell insist on the supply side?  Even perusing other info online later, I end up seeing plenty of folks repeating what Ivan has said.

??  Gah!  Ugh.

So he understands the issues right off, shakes his head over the humidifier again, says there's no way the pressure switch would ever work on any HVAC system.  The whole thing is a poor design he says and it's not going to work well in general.  Greeeeaaaaat.

At this point I'm past beyond-tears and besides, I don't want to tear up with super awesome Ivan standing there.  Plus he says he's impressed that I installed this thing myself, soooo....buck up buttercup.

Instead of saying, eh, you're outta luck there sugar see ya, he opts to bypass the pressure switch by wiring it straight together.

He popped off the side cover then wired two blue wires together into that bright orange nut.  The foil tape covers over the pressure switch tube inlet.
Then, in order to keep massive amounts of water from running constantly 24/7/365 because now the solenoid is permanently open, he wires the humidifier directly to the furnace.  No photo of that, sorry.  I didn't want to be creepy blogger chick hovering over him with a camera all up in his face.

Which is good, the wiring, because it is a full on faucet stream, the water is.  No joke.  (You can't find accurate information about the daily water usage anywhere, fyi, and apparently Honeywell won't reveal that info either.  Interpret:  incredibly wasteful.)

I mean, this renders my switch/outlet combo useless but he tried to assuage me by saying yeah it's a good idea to have an outlet in here just anyway.  Heh.  Nice, Ivan, heh, thanks!

But ok, so when the furnace fan runs, the humidifier runs, the water runs.  When it's not running, the water does not either.

Nice!  Fantastic!  Nice work, Ivan!

The best part though was that he treated me like a human with a brain, not some dumb girl.

I will always heap mountains of praise on customer service/service/repair/specialty people who do because most do not, unfortunately for them.  The ones who do not are ones I never patronize again.

He explained what he was doing and how, how things were functioning, how things were not functioning but should function, and made sure I understood everything.  The more he explained too, the more I realized indeed how poorly designed this thing is.

Back to the task at hand, a few tests, several drain leaks, a few adjustments and tweaks of the water flow in shortening it up to on-just-enough-but-still-clearly-soaking-the-interior, and bam, it's good to go.  Ivan saved the day!  My HVAC hero!  Yay!  Thanks Ivan!  Holy crap, it works!

Wow!

There it is, all running, water in the drain tube again!
Wow was I exhausted.

But.

Silly-ly, and pathetically, I never noticed nor realized the Nest monitors indoor humidity.

Wow, omg duh!!

Shake my head and insert major eyeroll here.  Heh.  I am SO thrilled I made this tiny yet monumental discovery.

Only as Ivan is leaving and I readjust the thermostat from my phone, once everything was rolling, did I notice we began at 30% indoor humidity, the temp outside a balmy thirty six.  Twenty four hours later with the humidistat set at 45% and an outdoor temp of a toasty thirty seven, we're at 34%.

Huh.  Um.  So uh.  Hm.  Ok then.  Um, shouldn't we maybe be a bit higher?

I'm starting to have nagging doubts.

But at this juncture I'm trapped.  It's not like I can return the thing and everything will be all hunky dory normal.  No, I've got huge gaping holes all over my ductwork.  So I'm hosed (ah ha, hosed, water pun) -- I can't return it.

There are, the Honeywell Twitters are telling me, a bazillion variables at play here, which ok sure, is fair, but c'mon.  Fair to a point.  Four percent increase?  Four percent after three days?  And after a week and a half?  No.  That's inexcusable.  Our house is not a sieve to the outdoors.

When the outside temps dropped to more winter-like levels, a high of eighteen degrees, we're at -1% over where we started.  29%.  So not even four.  We're on a downward spiral here folks.

Several days later with outdoor temps between zero and the low teens?, we're running at 21% indoor humidity, humidistat now cranked to max.  So it's not working, this product.

Would I recommend a whole house humidifier?  Absolutely.  No question there.  We've had them in the past and they make a tremendous difference.

Would I recommend this Honeywell one?  No.  Their lackadaisical customer service is surely deficient.  This product is so poorly designed even I know how to improve it.  And I am so not an HVAC professional.

It doesn't perform properly, and a paltry 4% total momentary increase is hardly worth the time, money, effort, water usage, and permanent holes in our ducts.

Were my expectations too high?  Why should they not be high?  For a product up to just under twice our square footage?  It should have been more than enough.  I mean, and the air quality, more importantly, felt no different than usual, prior to installation.  Reason enough to pause there.

It's a guaranteed sale for Honeywell, though, guaranteed profit; what do they care if the unit sucks at its touted purpose.  That I cannot stand.  Cannot stand.  Cannot.  When a consumer is forced powerless with no recourse...yeah, no, that does not sit well with me.  Or sit at all.

Now I'm not trusting the Amazon reviews (I mean, I know plenty are fake and/or paid for in general on Amazon, so I'm careful regardless).  Wish I had come across the Home Depot reviews, those woulda slowed my roll.

Ivan said Aprilaire* is the way to go though I see online many people say the products are about similar.  He wholeheartedly recommended the Aprilaire with no bypass ducting, one that has a fan inside* and no pressure switch.

We shall see.  I'm still conversing with the Honeywell people over my exasperated dismay.  Oh I am indeed that squeaky wheel.  Do not get on my bad side.

Stay tuned for a final final update on how this all wraps up.  So heh, part four-ish.

(Click here to read the final wrap up.)

Ah, very few photos spread through this one.  Here's one of Hailey, as is tradition:

My poor sweet pea.  This is the day she was sprung from the emergency vet out in the 'burbs after having spent a month there trying to figure out what was wrong after she nearly died.  Addison's Disease, they finally discovered.  She was two and a half here.  My brother and sister in law sent her this toy in a get well box.  I have that toy hanging on my wall right now.
*The Honeywell humidifier and Aprilaire are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

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4 comments

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  3. What an adventure that sounds like! I must commend you, I would have given up long before then. As useless as Honeywell seems to be at least they sent out a competent repairman who actually helped and not just, like you said, shrugged his shoulders and left. Hopefully it stays running for you and does not end being too expensive.

    Tommy Hopkins @ Accu Temp

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    1. Indeed, the whole thing was an adventure. The assistance I received from Heatmasters saved my sanity.

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